The importance of a quality education is a fundamental principal for any successful industrial country. The outcome of this system has a direct and withstanding effect on the country’s socio-economic development. Although the current annual evaluation of the United States (U.S.) educational system proves performance abilities are not declining, other countries are vastly improving; closing existing performance gaps that reflected strongly for the U.S. The U.S. educational system can be described as a mathematical equation with multiple variables such as the quality of material, teachers’ knowledge, student’s learning desire, environment, economic situation, and other factors. However, one of the most effecting variables in this complex formula is the availability of additional resources within the school environment. Tutors, teachers, translators, mentors, counselors, literary and learning resources, and relevant technology are all imperative players in creating a bridge to success for all students. Educational institutions have long been accountable for upholding curriculum that maintains standards in which student performance is reflected in grades, tests, and graduation rates. Although that is critical for the upward progression of students and educational institutions alike, schools must provide additional resources and support for students in order to create the most conducive learning environment in which all students, regardless of ability, have an equal opportunity to succeed.
In the U.S., state and local districts are primarily responsible for providing the bulk of financial support for schools, especially among elementary and secondary schools. “The Federal contribution to elementary and secondary education is about 10.8 percent, which includes funds not only from the Department of Education (ED) but also from other Federal agencies…” (The Federal Role in Education.). The remaining amount is produced by a combination of efforts from state and local districts and private sources. Many states are reliant on property tax as a primary funding agent for education. Undoubtingly, the recent 2007-09 recession has had residual effects on school budgets due to the rates of foreclosure and declined property value. This offset of funding combined with low federal funding is detrimental to local districts, who then must either raise revenues by increasing existing tax rates or cut educational services, or both. According to Leachman and Mai, at least “34 states are providing less funding per student for the 2013-14 school year than they did before the recession hit. Thirteen of these states have cut per-student funding by more than 10 percent.” For the U.S., competing in the global economy with a stark financial crisis concerning the emerging generation of thinkers is extremely concerning.
In order to create an educational system in which all students can succeed, state funding must prioritize subsidies to districts serving students with the greatest amount of need. Resources for impoverished districts and at-risk students could provide a positive impact by lowering teacher-to-student ratios and allow for more personalized attention for each student. However, in the midst of the federal and state funding crisis, the funding gap between high- and low-poverty districts has increased. Education activist and author Jonathan Kozol assess, “The demarcations between separate worlds of education are assuming sharper lines. There is a new embodiment among the relatively privileged to isolate their children as completely as they can from more than token numbers of the children of minorities. In some cities,..young middle-class white families have successfully been pressuring their school boards to carve out almost entirely separate provinces of education for their children.” (135). This funding gap could be alleviated by producing an honest assessment of financial need among school districts within a state. Financial equality could be achieved by the morally sound allocation of funds, providing all students an equal opportunity to prosper in the school environment. Fair distribution of resources would help to bridge technology gaps that exist between schools in high- and low-poverty districts, providing accessible technology for all school-aged children.
To ensure preparedness for higher education and for entry into the 21st century work force, schools must provide students with tangible learning opportunities that are experimental and project-based. This approach would peak interests and develop a rooted understanding of complex subject matter. The change in communication from oral to digital paired with the momentum of social media outlets as news sources and credible avenues for information, make computer literacy imperative for elementary and high school students. “The shift from local, time-and-place learning of the analog world to the globally connected, anytime, anywhere learning of the digital world will no doubt be the most important work we as educators do over the next decade.” (Richardson xvi). Computer based learning; alongside state-of-the-art technology are vessels for increased effectiveness in teaching. Up-to-date laboratories and increased opportunity for field trips will aid students in a more comprehensive learning environment in which visual and tactile learning is coupled. To best assist students, educational institutions have an obligation to provide learning materials that teach curriculum outside traditional teaching methodology. Despite improbabilities from financial limitations, digital and kinesthetic learning must be integrated into all classrooms and made accessible in all schools.
Undoubtedly, integrating technology into the classroom is a lofty expenditure. Equipment is only part of the expense equation, as educators must become adept to teaching in the digital arena. Proponents say that digital learning allows students to fully grasp material on their own pace while learning fundamental skills for the 21st century. Conversely, critics of technology in the classroom argue that digital learning romanticizes the idea of engaging through independent learning. “Schools are being motivated by a blind faith in technology and an overemphasis on digital skills… at the expense of math, reading and writing fundamentals.” (Richtel 2011). Opponents are not advocating for a stark refusal of technology, rather a combined effort of existing teaching methodology with the peripheral use of gadgets. Educational institutions would benefit from an in-depth investigation of what could be accomplished with the enormous monetary investment technology integration requires and would be better served to integrate an array of teaching methods that include integrating tactile learning, critical thinking, and relevant uses of technology. This approach, coupled with prioritizing the school environment to ensure a safe and enriching school culture, would foster development across subjects and grades.
The obligation to establish safe and enriching school environments is as important as developing encompassing teaching methods to reach all students. Parallel to discussions of low-poverty school districts receiving lower financial support, is the accepted thread of thought that schools mimic their neighborhood dynamic. Particularly relevant among urban public schools, educational institutions must create barriers in which neighborhood tribulation is dissolved or resolved, void of violence, inside school walls. According to Neiman and Devoe, “About 13 percent of city schools reported at least one gang crime, a higher percentage than that reported by suburban (5 percent), town (5 percent), or rural schools (3 percent).” (3). Educational institutions must foster relationships with parents, students, and neighborhood officials and understand gang lines and gang dynamics in order to best alleviate tensions that arise in-school from outside qualms. Many students will experience bullying or harassment; it is the escalation or repetitiveness of such acts that schools must alleviate without furthering the root of friction. However, void of proper funding, schools are forced to take action against disruptive students or incidence with ineffective measures. In-school or out-of-school suspensions disrupt pathways of learning and can lead to further violence from retaliation, whereas mediation and counseling offer support to aid reactionary behavior. Neiman and Devoe assess that “Among the factors that were reported to limit schools’ efforts to reduce or prevent crime… three were more likely to be reported than others: a lack of or inadequate alternative placements or programs for disruptive students (25 percent); inadequate funds (24 percent); and federal, state, or district policies on disciplining special education students (18 percent).” (4). Alongside capabilities to counter violence in school, is the necessity to provide on-site medical staff and counselors to support students’ physical and mental health.
For students, sound physical and mental health are imperative for success in school. Students thrive from a regimented schedule that prioritizes a healthy and sustaining diet and an ample amount of sleep. It is the parent or guardian’s responsibility to develop healthy habits within the home however, it is the partnership of students, parents, and school staff to ensure that health and wellness are upheld at school. A comprehensive team of school nurses and school counselors have the joint responsibility to assist students, staff, and parents in the maintenance of physical and mental health. Students who battle emotional and/or behavioral disorders deserve support from school counselors, and educational institutions should be held responsible for investigating problems of student learning and behavior and for providing educationally centered solutions. In the interest of success for all students, schools must have an all-encompassing approach, with education as the focal point and substantial attention on lifestyle and life enriching practices. This way, schools will develop well-rounded, prepared young adults.
The role of school counselors in the academic environment is imperative to the supportive nature of educational institutions. In the same breath, schools must provide personalized career counselors. Whether a student is pursuing higher education or immediate placement in the work force, career counselors have tools and insight to best guide each student on their individualized path to achievement. Career counselors can provide valuable resources to students in regard to higher education by providing information concerning school environment, breadth of degrees or courses, tuition, scholarships, and other valuable insight upon entering a collegiate atmosphere. Likewise, career counselors can share knowledge of required training, salary ranges, and anticipated growth within a given field, for students interested in pursuing the workplace after high school. The accessibility of support like that of school counselors reflect a school’s investment in their students. In the interest of cultivating invested students, school counseling services are essential.
In order to prepare America’s youth as participants in the ever-competitive global economy, 21st century education must provide an all-inclusive approach that was void in its history. As technology is the primary force of innovation, textbook learning is no longer solely applicable as a means of teaching. Curriculum should embody both proven methods of teaching while fostering skill sets essential for the 21st century. Educational institutions are responsible for developing environments that safe, enriching and supportive, and the lack of overall financial support from the federal government, paired with the decline of property value and ownership spawned from the recent recession, create an unstable financial platform to do so. Nonetheless, in order to achieve levels of success guided by the U.S. education system’s current placement among other global leaders, schools must provide additional resources for students to ensure a comprehensive understanding of curriculum and to guarantee success and preparedness for all students.
“The Federal Role in Education.” Ed.gov. U.S. Department of Education, February 13, 2013. Web. March 18, 2014
Leachman, Michael, and Chris Mai. “Most States Funding Schools Less Than Before the Recession.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. September 12, 2013.
Kozol, Jonathan. The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. New York City: Random House, 2013.
Richardson, Will. Foreword. Pitler, Howard, et al. Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works. Alexandria: ASCD, 2012.
Richtel, Matt. “In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores.” New York Times September 3, 2011
Neiman, Samantha and Jill Devoe. Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools: Findings From the School Survey on Crime and Safety. Washington, DC: United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2009.